I didn’t fall in love with a place until I was 21. I spent a semester abroad and traveled with every opportunity, from Berlin to Budapest, Luxembourg to London. Dublin wrote itself upon my heart (to borrow James Joyce’s words) and Rome left an eternal imprint upon me.
Bend, Oregon is one of those cities that leaves an imprint on the heart with its outdoorsy, PNW with sunshine allure. Bend is situated just beyond the Willamette National Forest and the Cascade mountains range. It’s a scenic three-hour drive from Portland. Unlike other parts of the Pacific Northwest, Bend is sunny even in the winter.
Ryan and I visited Bend for an active vacation. We craved mental rejuvenation and lots of time outside. Neither of us are the sit-on-the-beach type of vacationers. We either want to go somewhere with lots sights to see, such as London, or somewhere with plenty of activities to do – and Bend certainly fell into that latter category. After our short weekend trip, I’m already excited to visit again!
What to Do In Bend
If you need any evidence of Bend’s allure for runners, you need to look no further than its residents. Retired elite runner and Picky Bars found Lauren Fleshman and elite ultrarunner Stephanie Howe Violett both live in Bend, along with numerous elite triathletes.
Numerous parks and trails sprawl throughout Bend and the entire city has a runner-friendly vibe. It seemed like every time I looked out of the hotel window to the river, I saw at least one runner out. Both runners and non-runners alike were friendly to us on our runs.
We stayed in the Old Mill District, so we simply had to walk out of our hotel to start on the Deschutes River Trail. Since it was snowy both mornings and we wanted a taste of trail running, we ran along the dirt portion of the trail through Farewell Bend Park. Our paces were slow as we ran on snow one day and ice the next – about 90 seconds per mile slower than a normal easy run – due to the ice, but the scenery and the trail itself more than made up for that.
This segment of the Deschutes River Trail didn’t even scratch the surface of running in Bend. In town, Pilot Butte offers an opportunity for long hill work and Drake Park provides a scenic paved trail downtown. Many trail runners venture 30 or so minutes out to run along the Sisters mountains.
I don’t have any photos to share from snowboarding since we both have brand new iPhones and were worried about breaking them on a wipeout or losing them.
Only a short 30 minute drive from Bend is Mt. Bachelor, one of the largest ski areas in the Pacific Northwest. Like many mountains in the PNW, Mt. Bachelor is a stratovolcano with no present geothermal activity (meaning, it’s not going to blow its top during your next ski trip).
Mt. Bachelor offers several green runs and numerous black and blue runs. Admittedly, it was intimidating as a beginner – the lifts spanned high up until the fog engulfed them and even some of the green runs took 20-30 minutes to complete.
We spent 3 hours snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor. I’m still such a novice at snowboarding and I was on a shorter board than usual, so we spent our first 90 minutes on some shorter green slopes. Then, we decided to try some longer runs, including a green run that cut across the mountain and took almost 40 minutes to complete (that includes me wiping out a few times).
President’s Day Weekend is a popular ski and snowboard weekend in the PNW. We got there at noon (to take advantage of half day lift tickets) and were surprised at the crowds. Thankfully, while the rentals were out of my size boots and board, they were able to fit me in men’s boots and slightly smaller board.
Despite windy conditions, we had so much fun snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor! We really enjoyed the snowboarding there as a whole, especially the longer green runs. We both really hope to return again, especially when my skills have advanced enough to go on blue slopes.
Eat & Drink
Bend is a craft beer lover’s dream come true. Numerous breweries line the Deschutes River throughout Bend. We West Coasters love our happy hours and craft beers. The entire Bend downtown has an apres ski/happy hour vibe to it once the clock strikes 5 pm.
Deschutes Public House is a must-stop in Bend. Expect a long wait on the weekends, although you can enjoy a drink in the bar area as you wait for your seat. Deschutes is a West Coast style brewery, so you will find more ales on the menu than you will lagers. Deschutes’ specialty is pale ales and IPAs. For those of you who don’t like IPAs, know that West Coast hops taste less bitter and more citrusy than hops from other parts of the county.
Deschutes Public House also has insanely delicious food. The menu surpasses your standard pub menu, with options such as mushroom and beet burgers, elk burgers, tempeh Reubens, and delicious steak salads. We ate there both nights in Bend because their food was so good (and okay, because of the beer).
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There’s so much more to do in Bend than run, snowboard, and sample beer. Mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, and simply enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest are other activities that you can do in Bend. The only thing you don’t want to do when you visit Bend is spend the entire time inside.
If you could vacation anywhere right now, where would you go?
What’s the last city that captivated you?